Dr Niall’s Corner

malawi-1-may-2007-061a.jpg Can this man dance or what?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Wells for Zoë

I’d like to refer readers of Psychiatry and Society to the following page: https://wellsforzoe.wordpress.com/. It is well worth a look. I mentioned John and Mary Coyne in my previous post; this is their blog. John and Mary are both former teachers, and John a developer, and they and their organisation Wells for Zoë have attached themselves to SJOG in Mzuzu, Malawi, in the past couple of years. (Mary teaches here.) Wells for Zoë began as a pump-providing operation – providing clean water to villages in the Mzuzu area, so women or girls don’t have to walk ten kilometres with ten litres of water in a bucket on their heads. They still sink pumps but it has recently expanded into microcredit and other things – the recent blog entries describe a project, which the Coynes recently took me and Sharon along to, to drain and reclaim unused bog-like land, previously unsuitable for cultivation, and cultivate it using organic methods. (Fertiliser is expensive, and environmentally dodgy, and unnecessary). There’s a recent John Waters IT piece on the blog too.
I mention this partly because it’s just worth mentioning… and partly because it illustrates quite nicely how psychiatry and society sometimes mix in ways that you would not expect.

Niall, Sharon and Mary greet the women of Sonda village farming co op

Had SJOG, a mental health service, not been in Mzuzu, the Coynes would not have come here (they would have gone somewhere, not here) and the women you see in this picture, shaking hands with Sharon, Mary and me (I felt like the Queen) would not now be growing carrots and tomatoes and peas and Chinese cabbage for sale in the market to make money for soap and oil and school fees. And the village chief, beaming in the background, would not have handed over a huge plot of his own land (not without a fight!) to a group of local women: essentially we’re talking a feminist agri-co-op. The chief is the only local man in the picture; there were four guys there that day and a dozen women. Physical labour and indeed providing for the family remains predominantly women’s work. The chief is the guy in, if you squint, the Beckham shirt. Beckham in Malawi is another post entirely.

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